Harry Randall earned a Six Nations debut for England against Italy thanks to a speed camera from America, a stool, a hula hoop and a cricket net at Llandovery College which helped give the scrum half the confidence to bounce back from a verdict that he was too small and his pass was too slow.
Bristol scrum half Randall and his family were left fuming by the verdict delivered by the Scarlets who helped push the Llandovery school boy away from a possible Welsh cap and into the English system and he lines up against Wales at Twickenham on Saturday.
Randall, now 5ft 8ins and 72kgs, was able to prove Scarlets were wrong to brand his pass as “slow” thanks to a Heath Robinson invention devised by former Harlequins coach Iestyn Thomas who was head of rugby at Llandovery for 18 years and fought to allow the youngster to play two years “up” against bigger opponents.
Thomas, who also coached London Welsh, never doubted Randall’s ability and believes Welsh coach Wayne Pivac has made a major error by not bringing the Bristol scrum half into his squad before Eddie Jones picked him for England.
Thomas told RugbyPass:“His passing in my view was always good and on the back off what Scarlets said I ordered a speed camera from America because I was so annoyed they said his pass was slow. At the College we used a cricket net with the speed camera behind – it’s real Heath Robinson stuff – with a hula hoop as a target and he passed from 10m away we did a scrum half pass test to show he was fast. Not only did we find out he was accurate we confirmed his pass was quick.
“We put the camera on a stool but when he was accurate the netting smashed it backwards and so we had to put mats down!
“We had his pass accuracy per centage and his slowest and fastest pass. I couldn’t get his scrum half opponents at Scarlets to come and be tested but I told the Scarlets just how good he was off both hands. What is unique about him is that he is able to create situation others don’t see. At Llandovery, you would see him head down what appeared to be a dark alley in a match and bound to get a thumping and then two side steps later he emerged unscathed and from having my hands on my head it was a case of “ how did he do that?”
“Llandovery play in the Welsh Colleges league and they won’t let anyone play who isn’t ready and they do make exceptions and they granted one for Harry and he was leaving people for dead.
“Harry came to us at 15 because his sister was already at Llandovery and he was with us until the fall out with the Scarlets. There was competition around the No9 position and Scarlets decided he was too small and his pass was too slow. His two elder brothers had been at Scarlets and so they moved him to Hartpury College after two and half years with us.
“He was in the fifth year playing against players in the Upper Sixth and that was highly unusual at Llandovery and not only did he cement a place you could see he had something special. I never had any concerns about his size. He has big heart and really brave with a really good tackle technique that you can see to this day when he bring down Premiership players much who are much bigger. It doesn’t matter who is coming at him he stops them.”
Llandovery has a proud rugby past having produced a host of Welsh internationals including captains Alun Wyn Jones, Gwyn Jones and Cliff Jones along with Lions George North, Geoff Evans, Vivian Jenkins and Andy Powell. Thomas believes a small scrum half like Faf de Klerk who won the 2019 World Cup with South Africa proved size isn’t everything. Thomas added: “If you see Harry play for a few minutes you realise that size isn’t a factor and he can handle anything.
“If Harry had stayed in Wales I believe he would be now playing for Wales.”